Mark Joseph Pizza ~ Manalapan
ok...so I know there is another thread here on the Chef of this place, but I can only speak for the pizza because we did not order anything else. I wish the owners all the best and hope they do well, but for me, I will not be returning. We ordered the ultimate cheese pizza and were hoping this place would be our new "find". Unfortunately...as others have posted about the pizza..it's very bland. After the first bite I thought..ok, this will get better..no, sadly it was worse. Very hard to chew, lacked flavor, and for all those cheeses on top, I could not identify one of them, it was all just melted on top, (messy) except for whatever that cheese was that was piped on top out of a pastry bag....I believe that was the ricotta, I don't think it was homemade, though.
Maybe the dinner entrees and good, but certainly not the pizza. My husband described it the best..he called it "Airport Pizza." I think for $ 18.00 it should have had some WOW factor to it. I do wish them well, and from the reviews, the dinner items do sound good, just skip the pizza........
Have been in twice so far, once for lunch (pizza and wings) and once for a tasting dinner of small plates. Mixed results, but will definitely go back to see if the kinks get ironed out. Enough potential that it's worth the 35 minute ride.
Tried the Joey's Paisano pizza (sausage, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, smoked mozz) and found the crust "curious" - chewy and a little gritty - I thought that perhaps they added a little cornmeal as many grilled pizzas do, but Chef Mike says no (he was actually thinking of trying that), it's all 00 flour and any crunch came from the grill. Nicely done - somebody knows how much salt mozz needs to bring out the flavor, and both the onions and peppers are done in-house, extremely slowly, showing very full rounded flavors. The sausage wasn't terribly special, but overall this is a pie I'd happily eat again. The wings (buffalo and blue this time) were done to absolute perfection. Wings are harder to do than they would seem - get them crispy enough (with no batter or breading to help) while still leaving the chicken juicy is a feat, and they pull it off nicely here. My companion was disappointed in the heat level (too light for his taste) but there's a "grim reaper" version that he'll try next time.
Dinner was more of a mixed bag. My wife and I split several small plates. The spinach salad with goat cheese which was wonderfully dressed, nicely balanced and very fresh. The Rosemary-Garlic wings were as well cooked as the lunch batch, but neither the rosemary or garlic was intense enough to make them interesting or at all memorable. The nola shrimp were adequate, but could have used more intensity of flavor, but the grits that accompanied them were the high point of the night - buttery, creamy, full of flavor. The fried meatballs were the most interesting dish of the night - there was a component to the taste that I absolutely couldn't identify and was not sure that I liked. They were crisp outside, silky inside (perhaps brisket in the mix?) and extremely strongly flavored, but I'm going back to try them again, alone, before I give up and ask Chef what the taste is I can't identify.
All-in-all, a very interesting place. I'm not sure the chef and the owners are on exactly the same page when it comes to the direction the place will go (the owners seem more "Jersey Shore" [the TV show, not the locale] and the chef more classical; with hope that the chef will prevail, I'll keep trying and posting from this place.
I wonder if the month between Angelina's review (I agree with her a vast majority of the time) and mine marked a "growing pains" period for the restaurant. I still think there's vast room for improvement, but this is not a "write-it-off" kind of place - they're trying so much for so many things that success would mean an extreme home-run. I'll give that kind of place a visit every month, each time hoping that everything will come together.